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Mere Yoder

John Howard Yoder continues to become more and more of an influence on me, both materially and methodologically in regard to both theology and ethics. Of course, many, many folks have never read or even heard of Yoder. This is to be expected, given his Mennonite context. If you’re not a Mennonite or lack much connection with that tradition there’s a pretty good chance that you wouldn’t run across Yoder’s work too readily.

So, for those who are looking for some kind of vector of entry into Yoder’s thought and “style,” my recommendation (as far as introductory secondary literature goes) would actually be Lee Camp’s Mere Discipleship. This is one of the most accessible books I’ve ever read. It succeeds at distilling most of Yoder’s thought without reductionism or mere parroting. Part of the reason for this, I think is that Camp’s book is not simply trying to be an analysis of Yoder’s work. Rather he is trying to say what Christianity is in the way that Yoder understood it. And he accomplishes this task admirably. Certainly there’s stuff to criticize in the book, and it sets out to present, not defend the ideas articulated therein. But, regardless this is definitely the layman’s introduction to Christianity according to Yoder.


  1. Brad E. wrote:

    I 100% agree. I was introduced to Yoder (and to Hauerwas) through Camp three years ago while serving in Uganda — and my life, faith, and theology changed forever. The geographical-political context was crucial, but also the tradition: Camp so faithfully passes along what his teacher taught him precisely because his particular ecclesial tradition (churches of Christ out of the Stone-Campbell restoration movement of the 1800s) is so deeply similar to Anabaptism.

    Speaking out of that same tradition, all I can say is that reading Yoder through Camp was like having the scales finally fall off, like seeing all the puzzle pieces I had always had before me finally put together at last. Camp is a worthy testament to the necessity for readers to lead us to the even greater readers of the one faith.

    Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink
  2. Bobby Grow wrote:

    Thanks, Halden.

    I doubt Multnomah’s library would have that, what do you think?

    Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 11:08 pm | Permalink
  3. Brad A. wrote:

    Halden (and others), I’m curious: Does there seem to be a movement of dissatisfaction with Hauerwas, Cavanaugh, maybe Radical Orthodoxy, in favor of a swing back toward Yoder? It may just be my impression, but he seems to be receiving a resurgence of attention. If this is correct, to what might we attribute this movement?

    In my dissertation, I’m engaging with all of them to a limited degree, so I’m curious for personal as well as theological reasons.

    Monday, June 22, 2009 at 7:36 am | Permalink
  4. Brad E. wrote:

    Fellow Brad: what are you doing your dissertation on?

    (Just curious. I’ll let the experts answer your excellent question.)

    Monday, June 22, 2009 at 8:20 am | Permalink
  5. Brad A. wrote:

    Ecclesial identity and the problem of nationalism. I’m using helpful insights from nationalism scholarship (it’s an interdisciplinary project with political science as my secondary conversation partner), particularly that which shows the nationalist project (which is differentiated from the state project) as essentially a parody of the church and Christian theology.

    I’m working through some of the methodological considerations now, particularly the use of social science in a way that doesn’t “position” theology, but that opens theology to information and considerations it has not yet adequately considered.

    In other words, my goal is to alienate myself and have no friends whatsoever by the time I’m done with this…

    Monday, June 22, 2009 at 10:01 am | Permalink
  6. Alienate your self and no friends eh? Who said you had them to begin with?! This is Marquette!

    Juuuust kiddddding…

    Monday, June 22, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    It may. Check the library website.

    Monday, June 22, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink
  8. Halden wrote:

    Brad A., I don’t know if “dissatisfaction” is quite the right term. I think its more of a recognition that Yoder’s perspective on certain key theological points needs to be distinguished from Hauerwas’s perspectives and those of RO. Yoder speaks with his own voice when he is really read extensively.

    I think Chris Huebner’s A Precarious Peace and Nathan Kerr’s Christ, History and Apocalyptic would be helpful for you in seeing this play out. Especially Kerr’s book.

    Monday, June 22, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink
  9. Matt Shafer wrote:

    Wow. That sounds like an awesome dissertation; it’s exactly the sort of thing I’m interested in. I wish I could read it..

    Monday, June 22, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink
  10. Brad A. wrote:

    Ha! I wish I could, too, Matt!

    Monday, June 22, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Permalink
  11. Brad A. wrote:

    Oh, I agree. From time to time, I find his voice the most convincing of the three, though that may depend on how I fluctuate over time rather than whose work is more compelling overall.

    Just curious.

    (And I’ve been reading Kerr’s book off and on; I’ll have to look up Huebner’s – thanks for the reference.)

    Monday, June 22, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  12. Brad A. wrote:

    Well David, some of us actually know people OUTSIDE the Theo Dept…

    Monday, June 22, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

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